Interesting things happen when professors encourage creativity.
I’m taking an online neuroscience class at the moment and in the first week, I’ve learned more neuroanatomy than I ever thought I could know. This week’s assignment is designed for us to display competency in a creative way of our choosing. For me, this is fun territory. After going over and over in my head about not wanting to hand in a sketch showing my competency, I woke up this morning with a brilliant idea. Why not carve the brain out of some fruit? Like a cantaloupe… Like a “canta-lobe”!
And so I was off. I went to the grocery store and picked out the lumpiest little one I could find, roughly the size of my own brain. A while back, when I decided I wanted to throw an in-the-future dinner party (that in reality will likely never be thrown, but is still nice to plan in my head from time to time), I bought some fruit shaping tools. ie: a melon baller, some wavy comb-looking thing, a small carving knife. And, I knew that I, at least, had some highlighters and colored pencils somewhere in my apartment. While carving this little guy, I realized that even though I’m turning it in for a class, this could be a really cool weekend project to replicate for kids or teenagers who want to know more about the brain.
The ease of making a canta-lobe, or any brain model, depends upon your working knowledge of the brain. And the complexity can be dialed up or down depending upon your audience. Smaller children may appreciate a simple demonstration of the lobes. Because I was trying to show my understanding of the material I’ve soaked in, and had actually made a list of everything I wanted to label in my final product, I was more detailed. I chose to recreate the lateral view of the left hemisphere. There, I carved the major sulci, being mindful of where the boundaries of the different lobes occurred. After hours and hours of looking at countless examples of brains, most of this anatomy is lodged into my head, but I completely understand if it is not in yours, thus you will want to look through Google images of the brain. A quick search with keywords “Bran anatomy” and “cerebral cortex” should help you to find both simple and complex diagrams. I actually made many different sketches of the brain, detailing where the sulci (valleys) and gyri (hills) I needed to locate were in prep for the actual carving. So, even though this little fruit took up one whole day, I’ve been making an anatomical map in my mind for a little over a week now.
- 1 cantaloupe
- 4 markers
- sticky notes/paper
- double-sided tape
- melon carving knife
I happened to have chosen marker colors for the different lobes that actually matched some post-it notes I had in the back of my office supply closet. So, I went lobe by lobe and wrote down the important parts that I wanted to identify on their corresponding colored sticky note paper. The sticky notes failed to stick at first and I wound up using double-sided tape to stick onto the rough texture of the canta-lobe. My color code is yellow for the frontal lobe, blue for the parietal lobe, green for the temporal lobe and red for the occipital lobe. Note: I only represented the 4 lobes from the lateral view of the left hemisphere.
In total, the execution took me about 4 hours.The total time of 4 hours also included photographs and sulci labeling via photoshop. The carving itself was the most difficult part because I didn’t want to mess it up and create a sulcus where one didn’t need to be! If you’re not into making a detailed replication like I did, its very easy to identify the two main sulci (valleys) called the (1) Sylvian fissue and (2) Central sulcus. From these two, work outward, dividing the lobes by color from those two anatomical place-markers.
Check out the close-ups of my completed project below:
A closer look at the temporal lobe:
A closer look at the parietal lobe:
A closer look at the frontal lobe:
But, just so you know, I was not alone in the making of this canta-lobe project. The entire time I carved and colored this thing, I had two little research assistants hovering over the corner of the table. I snapped a photo of them here:
Mmm, just another day at the Nelson Nest.
If you’re interested in creating your own “Canta-lobe”, or brain model, share it with me here!